A Journal, with Pictures

Buenos Aires

by on Feb.10, 2016, under Happenings

January 27, at 3:00 PM we arrive at the downtown airport and are picked up by our escort after a looong wait for our bags. The natives are restless and guess what a demonstration almost breaks out over the delay. It must be Buenos Aires where demonstrations have changed the course of the countries history. Being an admitted Argentine history junkie, this is meca for me. Our first stop is the Teatro Colon (Columbus Theater), where we meet a wonderful enthusiastic guide who tells us the history of this amazing building. Construction started in 1889 and is South Americas most prestigious performing arts venue, which has been completely renovated to its former glory. As Argentina became rich, it was determined that the country must have a Opera House as grand as any in Europe, so five families went together and built it at their personal expense. The acoustics are perfect and the greatest performers in the world have performed there from Caruso to Pavaroti. After the tour we checked into our hotel Palacio Duhau, another very nice hotel and room. We then walked to and dined at the incredible Fervor, which is a traditional Argentine steak house. A great steak and bottle of Cabernet/Malbec  from a winery we discovered in Mendoza, perfect.

Thursday we begin the day with a visit to the historic Plaza de Mayo, anchored by the presidential palace know as the Casa Rosada (Pink House). The square in front of the palace, is surrounded by other important and historic buildings, including the city hall, the Metropolitan cathedral, the Argentine IRS and the National Bank. This is the place of many historic demonstrations including the one that freed Juan Peron, who would later become president. Of course there are two mini-demonstrations going on when we visit, one for pensions for the Faulklin Island war for those who never left Argentina and for the welfare recipients who were getting paid off by a now imprison corrupt social administrator Eva Peron wannabe. It is Argentina after all and anything is possible, just demonstrate.

We visit the Cathedral that looks more like a court house on the outside. Inside is the tomb of the General Jose San Martin who liberated Argentina from Spain in 1816. They had ruled since 1580, so many of the things that plague Argentina were implanted during the Spanish rule, including the established landowners and corruption. We then stop by the Argentine Legislature, for a photo, but based on recent history, with the Peronist party President who was called the “Empress” being recently defeated it doesn’t sound like they have had much to do there lately, its been mainly government by presidential decree. Since its warm our great guide Maria suggests an ice coffee which the Argentine’s do very well.

We then travel through the San Telmo district, the birthplace of Tango. This is a very historic area, one of Buenos Aires oldest districts that was abandoned during a yellow fever epidemic and now is a major tourist attraction. We then preceded to explore the near by La Boca (the mouth) district the original port at the mouth of the river. The area was settled by immigrants who painted their shanties with bright ship paint and the color scheme persists.

That evening we dine at an incredible restaurant called Chila, with authentic Argentine cuisine. We then take in a great Tango show at Faena Hotel. Both the restaurant and hotel are in a new area developed from the second port that fell into disrepair now has been redeveloped to be “the” new place in Buenos Aires.

Time for a after dinner drink on the terrace at the hotel, the smoke from the next table has a very sweet smell, could it be, guess so. Time to get some sleep another full day of touring tomorrow. Friday we tour the city’s northern area starting with the area around our hotel and then driving to the bohemian-chic-neighborhood of Palermo. The former grandeur of BA is apparent, with some privately owned mansions still maintained and others turned into commercial structures. The old part of our hotel is a former private mansion and next door is a mansion still maintained by one of the old families. We then travel to a area with a old favorite morning gathering place with a gigantic Ficus tree with interesting supports for the limbs next the restaurant.

We then walk to one of the most interesting places in Buenos Aires, the old cemetery next to a old Spanish Church. The rich and famous are entombed there in unique and sometime elaborate tombs with in some cases underground chambers. For example, one famous individual wanted to be buried in the Andes so his tomb is made from rocks brought from the mountains. The most famous tomb is that of Eva Peron, finally placed in her families vault, since she had fallen into disfavor with succeeding regimes her body was removed from the original burial place and hidden out of the country.

We then finish our tour of the northern area passing the Hipodromo Argentina de Palermo, the first race track established in 1876. Stop and see the huge piece of art in the form of a flower, next to the University of Engineering and then our final stop is at the Eva Peron Museum. Her story is a fascinating, marrying the President and becoming a national figure as the Dior clad first lady and supposed champion of the poor. Her body was hidden in Milan Italy by the opposition party and later returned to Argentina in a hostage swap that was botched. Her damaged body was finally interned in the family tomb and she still is a symbol of the Peronist party.

One of the biggest ethnic origins in Argentina is Italian so we dine at a well known Italian restaurant on our last night then turn in early by Argentine standards since we have an early flight to Iguassu falls in the morning. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city, with the worlds widest boulevard and a definite old European feel, with traces of its glory days along side new modern development that with a new more conservative government seems to have given the people renewed optimism.

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